SAN FRANCISCO Today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced that Cigna and Sentara Healthcare have joined a new health utility network using blockchain. The aim of the network is to convene a broad ecosystem of healthcare organizations in a highly secure, shared environment with the goal of enabling organizations to build, share and deploy solutions using blockchain that drive digital transformation in the industry.

The network also includes Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), and PNC Bank. Together they are exploring ways that blockchain can be used to address a range of industry challenges, including promoting efficient claims and payment processing, enabling secure and frictionless healthcare information exchanges, and ways to maintain current and accurate provider directories.

“We came together to create the health utility network realizing the need to improve transparency and interoperability in the industry in order to improve healthcare for all Americans,” said Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer of Anthem, Inc. “Engaging additional members across partner levels and industry perspectives will increase the network’s reach and ability to deliver high value solutions.”

At its core, blockchain is about strengthening trust in data. It’s a digital record keeping system that creates a new way to share and secure data across a business network. The ability to do this in real time, while maintaining permissioned access, data ownership and governance across many disparate parties, is what makes it so transformative.

“Cigna sees enormous potential for blockchain to improve the way we harness insights across the health care ecosystem to better serve our customers and communities,” said Mark Boxer, executive vice president and chief information officer, Cigna. “By working together, and joining the health utility network as a founding member, we have a significant opportunity to create new efficiencies that will lead to improved whole person health and wellness outcomes for our customers and clients.”

“Sentara is dedicated to leveraging Information Technology to continuously improve health every day,” said Mike Reagin, Sentara Healthcare senior vice president and chief information and innovation officer. “Blockchain is poised to help solve some of healthcare’s most crucial data security, and IT interoperability issues as we look to implement new customer-centric healthcare delivery models.”

“The distinctive attributes of blockchain is enabling collaborations between parties that could not easily take place previously, and with that entirely new business models are emerging,” said Lori Steele, general manager for Healthcare and Life Sciences for IBM. “The byproduct of this is the ability to link organizations in real-time and in ways that can ultimately improve the patient experience.”

One of several areas of focus for the healthcare ecosystem will be new ways to address payments. For example, a lack of trust between payers and providers can impede efforts to move toward alternative payment models. IBM and PNC have begun collaborating on a way to use blockchain to create shared efficiencies, drive adoption of bundled payments as a reimbursement mechanism, and help improve the value of care. The two organizations are scheduled to demonstrate the solution during the HIMSS Conference.

The business model of the healthcare blockchain network is predicated on a commitment to open and inclusive participation. More members expect to be added including other health organizations, providers, startups and ISVs, and together members will expand use cases that can benefit the healthcare industry.

The announcement was made during THINK 2019, IBM’s annual conference focused on technology and business.

February 14, 2019